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Plant Physiol. 1999 Jun;120(2):463-72.

Water content, raffinose, and dehydrins in the induction of desiccation tolerance in immature wheat embryos

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  • 1Division of Life Sciences, King's College London, Campden Hill Road, London W8 7AH, United Kingdom (M.B., H.G.).


Desiccation tolerance is initiated in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) embryos in planta at 22 to 24 d after anthesis, at the time that the embryo water content has decreased from about 73% fresh weight (2.7 g water/g dry weight) to about 65% fresh weight (1.8 g water/g dry weight). To determine if desiccation tolerance is fully induced by the loss of a relatively small amount of water, detached wheat grains were treated to reduce the embryo water content by just a small amount to approximately 69% (2.2 g water/g dry weight). After 24 h of such incipient water loss, subsequently excised embryos were able to withstand severe desiccation, whereas those embryos that had not previously lost water could not. Therefore, a relatively small decrease in water content for only 24 h acts as the signal for the development of desiccation tolerance. Embryos that were induced into tolerance by a 24-h water loss had no detectable raffinose. The oligosaccharide accumulated at later times even in embryos of detached grains that had not become desiccation tolerant, although tolerant embryos (i.e. those that previously had lost some water) contained larger amounts of the carbohydrate. It is concluded that desiccation tolerance and the occurrence of raffinose are not correlated. Immunodetected dehydrins accumulated in embryos in planta as desiccation tolerance developed. Detachment of grains induced the appearance of dehydrins at an earlier age, even in embryos that had not been made desiccation tolerant by incipient drying. It is concluded that a small reduction in water content induces desiccation tolerance by initiating changes in which dehydrins might participate but not by their interaction with raffinose.

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